Cowboy shoot brings back the Wild West

Mike Inigo of Naugatuck takes his turn on the shooting range during the Congress of Rough Riders Cowboy Shoot on Sunday at the High Rock Shooting Range in Naugatuck. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — If it weren’t for the wooded surroundings of the Naugatuck State Forest, it might have been easy to mistake the sight of firearms enthusiasts wearing boots, cowboy hats, leather belts, gun holsters and bandannas as a scene from the Wild West of a century ago.

Using single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles and double-barrel shotguns, roughly two dozen participants in Sunday’s Cowboy Action Shooting event took aim at steel targets in a series of stages.

The event takes place the first Sunday of each month at the High Rock Shooting Association’s range, said organizer Frank Wargo, who is also president of the Congress of Rough Riders of Connecticut.

When dressed in the cowboy garb he and others wear for the cowboy shoot, Wargo goes by the alias “Snake Eyes.”

Everyone had an alias. Another man went by the nickname “Padlock Pete.”

(Watch a video on the Cowboy Shoot) 

Wargo said Cowboy Action Shooting is overseen by a governing body called the Single Action Shooting Society, or SASS. He said worldwide roughly 137,000 shooters take part in cowboy shoots, making it one of the most popular shooting events.

Wargo said he first learned of the contests two decades ago, and began organizing events at the High Rock Shooting Association range 18 years ago.

Part of the appeal, he said, is “because it gets you away from the cellphones and the PCs and the whole nine yards.”

“It’s a different thing,” Wargo said. “A lot of the people up here, we’re not into shooting the more modern firearms, per se.”

Harding Dies of Norwalk, who went by the alias “Col. Douglas,” said he has been shooting for more than 65 years, but Sunday was his first Cowboy Action shoot.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Dies said.